The Demons were down 1-0 and still hunting for the goal that would send the heated match into overtime when time ran out. Despite many solid attempts, Ridgway’s tough fighting girls’ soccer team couldn’t come up with the necessary artillery to upend their adversaries.
“There were moments we played awesome, and there were moments we just played their game,” said senior midfielder Sam Willits of the Tuesday night match at Solar Ranch, in which the team gave their fans many opportunities to cheer as the hometown squad dominated play throughout much of the afternoon.
Ridgway’s advantage as the better conditioned team became clear early in the match with the offensive powerhouse trio of Willits, Willa Johnson and Rissa Robinson taking charge of the midfield, and defenders Julie Sirotek, Morgan Jossi, Cory Hibbard, and Louisa Clark keeping Evangelical Christian’s attacks at bay. Ridgway’s last line of defense, goalie Rowan VanArsdell, maintained composure in the net when Evangelical Christian was awarded two corner kicks in as many minutes, shutting down both attempts as soon as they were initiated.
Ridgway’s speed allowed the team to beat Evangelical Christian defenders time and again. Laurie Gleason fought one-on-one with Evangelical Christian’s first-half goalie, Hannah Goos, after her breakaway, followed shortly thereafter by an uncontested goal attempt from Audrey Jossi following her breakaway. Jossi drew Goos out of the net and managed to get around her, but her shot missed just wide.
Ridgway’s next golden opportunity came in the form of a perfectly positioned corner kick, initiated again by Jossi. Evangelical Christian’s advantage as the bigger, taller team allowed their defenders to clear the ball before the Ridgway offense could get in front of it.
Aside from their size, Evangelical Christian held one other significant advantage over Ridgway: big-footed shooters who would often take the long-shot opportunity instead of dribbling and passing closer to the net. One of these attempts proved successful for the visiting team, with freshman offender Heidi Mann initiating a rocket from many yards out, which sailed over VanArsdell’s head and gave Evangelical Christian the 1-0 advantage going into halftime.
Ridgway returned to the field following the halftime break without their token intensity, but soon regained their energy with Stine Austed taking a shot, missing just wide, and the feisty Gleason-Johnson twosome putting together plays in the midfield. Evangelical Christian’s second-half goalie, Kim Schipper, held strong in the face of a series of Ridgway attacks mid-period.
“We could’ve done it,” said Robinson following the match, “but it just wasn’t our day.”
Coach Chuck Siefken echoed his players’ belief that the Tuesday playoff match was a game the team could have won. “The girls worked really hard, and never gave up,” he said, adding that despite the outcome the experience was valuable in that it made clear to the team that they could play at a high level of competition.
“We put all our energy into it,” said Johnson, who is looking forward to leading the team as a senior next year. “I’m pleased that we did what we wanted to do – we gave them a challenge. They really had to fight for that win.”